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American Airline managers under fire – 4.10.07

April 10, 2007 

American Airline managers under fire 

By Anna Marie Kukec
Daily Herald Business Writer

The union representing about 18,000 flight attendants for American Airlines is planning an informational picket on April 17 to protest massive bonuses earmarked for senior managers.

But the union, which represents about 3,000 employees in the Chicago area, is still grappling with the city over a picketing permit.

The city Department of Aviation Monday granted the group permission, but said only six people could distribute literature and only three at a time.

“The department is still playing games,” said Association of Professional Flight Attendants spokeswoman Dana Davis. The union plans to seek legal counsel regarding its First Amendment rights, Davis said.

The union plans to picket airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas; Washington, D.C.; St. Louis; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; New York, Miami and at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

“We had no problems getting permits in other cities, but the Department of Aviation has been throwing Code Orange lingo at us,” Davis said.

American flight attendants are upset that more than 800 top managers will divide about $200 million in bonuses, union officials said. The payout is based on the AMR Corp. stock price at the close of April 18, so that amount could fluctuate. The $200 million is an estimate based on the current stock price, which is $32.23.

Chief Executive Officer Gerard Arpey could get around $7 million in stock, said Davis.

Last year, three unions, including the flight attendants, filed a grievance regarding the payouts and it was changed to an all stock payout from a cash/stock combination, said Davis.

The city, which overseas O’Hare, has its own regulations based on federal standards when dishing out permits for protests. The airport has been on Code Orange alert since last August, said Wendy Abrams, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Aviation.

“Any time a group is gathered in a public part of the airport, and there’s a heightened state of alert, we need to restrict such activities,” said Abrams.

However, she said the city doesn’t want to restrict the union’s First-Amendment voice.

Airline officials declined comment on the permit issue.

“American Airlines values and respects the contributions that our flight attendants and pilots make every day caring for our customers,” said spokesman Tim Smith. “We expect that the unions will respect the law and they’re free to express their opinions as they see fit.”

Arpey’s April payout for the 2004-06 performance is based on shareholder returns and achievement of corporate objectives and hasn’t been set yet, said American spokesman Andy Backover.

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